With details still coming in, it’s too early to see the full picture on what happened in the al-Qaeda occupied Syrian city of Idlib on Tuesday, but that’s not stopping establishment media outlets and White House officials from swiftly condemning it as a gas attack by President Bashar al-Assad against his own people, including children. This accusation might be believable if we haven’t heard it countless times before, only to find it to be discredited later.
The recent attack in Idlib was carried out on the eve of peace negotiations and days after the White House announced it would no longer pursue regime change in Syria. No motive has been presented as to why the Syrian President would carry out such an attack other than the self-evident dastardly impulses of cartoon character villainy. In stark contrast, the wave of media attention that has come out against Assad’s government has breathed new life into what almost seemed to be a lost cause for the Islamists that Syrians have been fighting for nearly six years now. After all, how can we stand by and allow innocent children to be slaughtered at the hands of this monster?
Nevermind that the same people occupying Idlib are aligned with the jihadi forces who, with smiles on their faces, filmed themselves cutting an 11 year old Palestinian boy’s tiny little head off, all on the U.S. taxpayer’s dime no less. Nevermind that these are the same “moderate rebels” who have filmed themselves eating the human organs of dead Syrian soldiers. Assad must be the culprit here, because the people who lied us into the Iraq War are telling us so.
The details of the Idlib attack complicate the narrative that Assad’s airforce was responsible. Images of the aftermath of the attacks showed members of al-Qaeda affiliated Academy Award winners The White Helmets touching the bodies of gassed children with their bare hands and no body suits, demonstrating why they won “Best Documentary Short” and not “Best Actor.” Assuming these kids were victims of a gas attack, the poison would penetrate the skin of the men and they would be dead or in serious trouble right now. Additionally, after perhaps gazing into his crystal ball, a reporter for the staunchly anti-Assad Dubai-based Orient TV announced a day before the new media campaign covering gas attacks on civilians that there would be a new media campaign covering gas attacks on civilians.
Plot holes aside, this brutal narrative is an easy one for many to swallow, given that it’s a repeat of what the public was fed multiple times over the course of Syria’s six year long war. The most infamous of such incidents was the attack in East Ghouta in 2013 following Obama’s “red line” ultimatum, which occurred while U.N. inspectors were in Syria investigating prior chemical attacks they determined were carried out by the Islamist opponents. No evidence was ever provided that Assad was behind this chemical attack against pro-Assad civilians in the Assad-held suburb of Damascus while Assad was gaining ground in the war and after President Obama warned of a direct U.S. ground invasion should Assad ever use chemical weapons against civilians. Shouldn’t it stand to reason that the people found responsible for the first waves of chemical attacks were the ones responsible for the successive ones?
Was it just a convenient coincidence for Assad’s opposition that President Obama’s specific “red line” was a chemical attack? As far as military strategy goes, Assad stood nothing to gain from it. Attacks of such nature largely fell out of use during World War I, with their primary function being to demoralize an enemy. A limited gas attack has no significant impact and changes nothing on the battlefield. On the other hand, a U.S. ground invasion on behalf of anti-government forces as a result of such a “red line” being crossed would considerably alter the stakes against the Syrian Arab Army.
Moreover, there is a mountain of evidence that anti-government Islamists have access to sarin and chlorine based weapons. In late 2012 Islamists from the Free Syrian Army released video of themselves testing their Turkish labelled chemical weapons on rabbits. Months later, Islamists from Jabhat al-Nusra were reported to have seized control of a chlorine factory near Aleppo. Shortly after, rockets containing chemical weapons were fired on Syrian soldiers and civilians in the nearby town of Khan al-Assal, which was explained by anti-Assad propagandists as being the result of a goof-up where the soldiers killed themselves with their own chemical weapons. In May, a Turkish raid found sarin gas in the homes of al-Qaeda Islamists. In July, Russia delivered evidence to the UN that Islamist forces were producing sarin, which they believe was used in Khan al-Assal. We know Assad’s enemies have access to chemical weapons, and we know they’ve used them in the past.
Why then should the American people believe it was Assad who committed the Idlib gas attack instead of members of the very same terrorist group who murdered thousands of us on September 11th, 2001? Where’s the evidence? What was the motive? Where did Assad get access to a brand new stockpile of chemical weapons after destroying his in 2014? Why shouldn’t we assume blame on the terrorists who were already occupying Idlib, had the means to carry out the attack, and had the strongest motive to do so? These are the questions that first need to be addressed before considering whether or not it would be a smart decision for the Trump administration to oust the secular government in Syria and give al-Qaeda control of their very own country with a lush Mediterranean coast, border with E.U. hopeful Turkey, and a powerful airforce.